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Jan 31, 2015
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Nightlife: Unkle Munkey's Coin Club
By Matt Berkley | Photos by Elizabeth Maxson
Posted On: 01/01/2015   

Unkle Munkey’s Coin Club
1027 Century Drive, Edwardsville, 618.692.5152, unklemunkeys.com

Unkle Munkey’s Coin Club opened in July in what seemed the humblest of locations: an inauspicious strip mall on the edge of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s campus. Six months later, this booze- and food-centric “barcade” has become a local gem that attracts a bustling crowd on weekend nights.

I can’t tell what makes me happier: sipping a beer while firing off a cache of rockets and venomous machine gun rounds on a vintage Terminator 2 arcade screen, or the fact that the game only cost me a quarter. It’s hard not to feel 13 again at Unkle Munkey’s, replete with smile-inducing throwbacks like Tetris, Mortal Kombat 3, Super Mario, Double Dragon and Centipede, along with skee-ball and more than a dozen pinball machines. Prices remain frozen in time – except for Guitar Hero and Golden Tee, none of the games will set you back more than 50 cents a turn. All you have to worry about is finding a spot to rest your cocktail while you blow things up.

Like the games, the drinks served up at the large horseshoe bar are designed for the young at heart. Sugary-sweet selections like the Cherry Sour (cherry vodka, simple syrup and lemon juice) and the Grape Ape (grape vodka, Sprite, club soda and margarita mix) are potent and surprisingly good. The Hydro Thunder comprises a supercharged, 22-ounce solution of vodka, gin, rum, blue curaçao and Red Bull. Non-designated drivers can order a Junky Munkey Fish Bowl, a fishbowl margarita with a trio of upturned Corona longnecks. If you’re just in the mood for beer, there’s a nominal list of inexpensive bottles and cans and a healthy selection of rotating craft beer taps, featuring such regional and out-of-town standards as Four Hands, Six Row, Breckenridge, Deschutes, Bell’s and Carson’s.

Energetic ingredients drive the casual bar cuisine, which is much better than you’d expect from the kitchen at an arcade. This one turns out comfort food classics like potato skins topped with tender strands of slow-braised beef, and crispy Mexican supreme pizzas with delectable mounds of chorizo, onion, mushrooms and seared peppers. One of the most likeable items is the Hot Mess sandwich, which stacks thick slices of roast beef, pastrami, and both Swiss and horseradish chive cheeses on a crispy Companion baguette that’s smothered with a spicy combo of Sriracha, ranch and giardiniera. Served with potato chips and an oversize cup of creamy dipping sauce, this hot and savory sandwich itself merits a return trip.

The atmosphere is kid-friendly until 9 p.m., when the house enforces a strict 17-and-older rule. From then until last call at 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Unkle Munkey’s becomes a playground for 20- to 40-something locals and T-shirted college kids, who throw back pints of beer and chat with their friends or dates, stopping every now and then for a quick game of Galaga. It’s as neon as you’d imagine in the wacky space bedecked with cartoon and comic book murals, beer signs and an odd collection of multicolored bottles that protrude from the ceiling. Above the lights and the bing-banging of dozens of games exploding in motion all at once, a jukebox roars with everything from “Riders on the Storm” to “We Built this City,” rock ’n’ roll toe-tappers in a bar where everyone’s inner nerd has snuck out for the night to play. If you’re in Edwardsville, it’s worth every quarter to drop in for a game, a drink and a bite.

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